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Paper: What to Keep and for How Long

A question I get asked all the time is, “What papers do I need to keep, and how long do I need to keep them?” So, in response to that I’ve come up with a list of paper retention guidelines. It will help you figure out what to keep and for how long. I must point out that I am not an accountant, CPA, lawyer, or tax specialist. This list is my recommendation, but you must always do what you feel most comfortable doing. If you have questions seek another opinion from one of the previously mentioned professionals.

Auto & other vehicles
Accident records – as long as you own vehicle
General maintenance receipts – 1 year
Insurance documents – keep most recent and discard previous versions
Insurance monthly payments – 1 year
Loan agreement – as long as you own vehicle
Loan payments – 1 year
Purchase agreement – as long as you own vehicle
Sales agreement – 3 years after sale of vehicle
Title -as long as you own vehicle
Warranted services – as long as you own vehicle

Bank
Account documents – for as long as you have account
ATM slips – verify against statement then shred
Check register – verify then shred
Loan documents – 3 year after loan has been paid
Monthly statements – 1 to 3 years

Credit cards
Account documents – for as long as you have account
Monthly statements – 1 to 3 years
Purchase receipts – verify against statement then shred, unless for warranty or taxes

Employment
Awards – individual preference
Certificates – keep until verified with employee records
Handbook – keep most recent and discard previous versions
Licenses & Contract – keep most recent 2 years and discard previous versions
Pay stubs – until end of year and verified by W2
Pension information – keep most recent 3 years and discard previous versions
Performance reviews – 5 years or job termination
Resume and references – individual preference
W2 and tips – 3 to 7 years or forever

Financial
Investment documents & IRAs – 3 to 7 years
Monthly or quarterly statements – 1 year, verify with year end statement
Purchase agreements – for duration of ownership
Sale agreements – 3 years after sale
Year-end statements – 3 to 7 years

Home Improvement
Instruction manuals – if used as long as you own product
Receipts for improvements & energy incentives – as long as you own home
Service contracts – as long as you have service
Warranties – as long as they are viable

Insurance (home owners, life, renters, supplemental, vehicles)
Policies – keep most recent and discard previous versions
Statements – 3 to 7 years

Mail
Advertisements – recycle
Announcements – recycle
Catalogues – 1 month then recycle
Circulars – 1 week then recycle
Correspondence – individual preference
Coupons/offers/promotions – use or recycle
Greeting cards – individual preference
Invitations – until event, then individual preference
Magazines – 1 month then recycle
Newsletters – 1 month then recycle
Newspapers – 1 week then recycle
Pledges – donate and keep for taxes or recycle
Solicitations – take action or recycle

Medical & Dental
Bills – 3 years after payment verification
Explanation of benefits – 6 months
Instructions – keep until no longer valid
Medication information and prescription slips – read then shred or keep until expired
Reference information – 5 years or until outdated
Routine visits receipts – 1 to 2 years
Surgery and special visits receipts – indefinitely or individual preference
*If you itemize your medical and dental expenses keep all supporting records for 3 to 7 years, including travel, parking and toll records.

Military
Admission papers – indefinitely
awards and honors – individual preference
Discharge – forever
Military ID – forever

Property/Real Estate
Deed – as long as you own
Lease agreement – as long as you lease
home improvement documents – until you sell
maintenance – 3 years
mortgage statements – 3 to 7 years
purchase and sale agreement – as long as you own

Purchases
Instructions – if used keep as long as own
Manual – if used keep as long as own
Sales receipt – recycle after decision to keep is made, unless for warranty
Warranty – keep for duration warranty

Taxes
Documents: 1099, 1095 and all forms, alimony, business income & expenses, charitable donations, child care & education expenses, excise tax, gambling, interest statements, investment papers, tax payments, real estate tax, refund receipts, tax return (federal and state), W2s
3 Years – IRS has 3 years from your filing date to audit your return if it suspects good faith errors, and you have 3 years to amend a return if you discover a mistake; therefore keep all tax returns, payment receipts, and supporting documents for at least 3 years.
7 Year – IRS has 6 years from your filing date to challenge your return if it thinks you underreported your gross income by 25% or more
Forever – there is no limit if you failed to file a return or filed a fraudulent return

Utilities – electric, gas, internet, phone, other
Bills – verify then shred
Maintenance – 1 to 2 years
Warranties – until no longer valid

Vital documents
Birth and adoption certificate – forever
Death certificate – forever
Deeds – until sold
Divorce decree – forever
Estate-planning documents (health care proxy, life insurance, living will and will, Power of attorney, trusts) – update every 5 years
Passport – keep most recent
Marriage license – forever
Naturalization papers – forever
Social security card – forever
Titles – until sold

©February 2020   Janine Cavanaugh, Certified Professional Organizer   All Rights Reserved

3 Important Food Dates

Before the holiday season is upon us take time to clean out the pantry and fridge.

Product dates come in 3 types according to the FDA. Use these dates as your guideline to keep, donate or toss food.

Sell by – tells how long the store can sell foods like meat, poultry, eggs, or milk products; buy it before this date

Use by – tells how long the food will be at peak quality – if you buy or use it after this date, some foods might not be safe any longer

Best if used by  (or best if used before) – tells how long the food has the best flavor or quality – it is not a purchase or safety date

 

Morning Routine

Organizing tipSet up a morning routine to help start each day in an organized way. Keep it simple and be consistent. My routine is morning stretches and meditation followed by shower and breakfast. Establishing simple routines help us organize our time.

key holder

10 Effective Organizing Habits

Helpful Organizer BlogHabits help us establish and maintain order. According to Stephen Covey, in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, creating a habit requires three things, knowing what to do, knowing how to do it, and wanting to do it. I can help with knowing what to do and knowing how to do it, but you have to want to do it. Below I’ve listed 10 effective organizing habits that work for me. I’d like to encourage you to pick one and create a new organizing habit for a month. Pick one that sounds doable to you and give it a try. (This is knowing what to do.) Do it every day for a month. I find it helpful to perform a new habit at the same time every day. (This is knowing how to do it.) Adjust your mindset and tell yourself that you want to and wish to do this habit. Think of it as an experiment. (This is wanting to do it.)

10 Effective Organizing Habits

  1. Collect mail every day and immediately recycle all junk mail.
  2. Establish one specific spot for keys and put them there every time you return home.
  3. Use only one date book/calendar to keep track of appointments, obligations, important dates and to dos.
  4. Have one ongoing grocery list and write down what needs replenishing as soon as it gets used up.
  5. Hold coupons and receipts in one designated spot and clean them out at least once a month.
  6. Place purse in one specific location and always put it there when home.
  7. Put all dirty clothes in hamper every night.
  8. Put clothes that can be re-worn in one designated spot in your closet.
  9. Plan the next day’s outfit the night before.
  10. After dinner each night plan dinner for the next night.

How did you do? Did you successfully create a new habit for yourself? Please share your experience with me in the comment section.

©July 2019  Janine Cavanaugh, Certified Professional Organizer®  All Rights Reserved

Organized client closet

Helpful Organizer Newsletter January 2019

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Celebrating
11 years in business
in 2019!
 
 
Thank you for supporting me and my business. I’m pleased to be celebrating my 11th year in business. A special thank you to all my clients both past and present. I value and appreciate your trust, collaboration

and fortitude.

 
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Recent Blog Articles:
Question:  Does your New Year Resolution involve organizing?
 
Please share.
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Hi,
      Happy New Year! How are you? What does your 2019 have in store for you? Any plans to organize, reduce, and let go of stuff? If so, I’d like to hear about your plans, please email me. This year I’m excited to plan a town recycling event and to embrace minimalism.

Closet Clean Out
Did you know the best day to clean a closet is laundry day? On laundry day everything you like is in the laundry being washed and your least-favorite items are still in your closet. So, this is the perfect time to make decisions on what hasn’t been worn.
Did you know that we wear 20% of what we own 80% of the time? Laundry day is the best day to scrutinize that unworn 80% and consider giving some(or all) of it away.
Therefore, on your next laundry day, I’d like to encourage you to be decisive about your unworn clothes, while your favorite clothes are spinning and rinsing. If you need some help deciding what to keep and what to let go of, below are a few more articles that will offer some guidelines and direction.
Please share with me your results.

Resources for Less
In keeping with the theme of reducing the amount of clothing we have, I’d like to introduce you to Project 333 by Courtney Carver. It is the minimalist fashion challenge that invites you to dress with 33 items or less for 3 months. I have not personally done this challenge, but I continually weed through my closet and practice seasonal purging of my wardrobe. If you try Project 333 I’d love to hear about your experience. Please share.
I feel like I must mention the hot topic of Marie Kondo who is the author of The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. She has a new Netflix series that is creating a lot of buzz. All I want to say is that if it works for you, do it, but if it doesn’t that’s okay!
From,

Janine Cavanaugh, CPO®
(508)-699-6652
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